Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Fort Canby, Washington"
Includes ... Fort Canby ... Fort Canby State Park ... Battery 247 ... Cape Disappointment ... Cape Disappointment State Park ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Image, 2004, Cape Disappointment State Park, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cape Disappointment State Park, formerly Fort Canby State Park. Image taken April 9, 2004.

Fort Canby ...
In 1862 Cape Disappointment was armed with smoothbore cannons to protect the mouth of the Columbia River from enemies. It was generally known as "Fort Cape Disappointment". In 1865 Fort Stevens, complete with a moat and drawbridge, was established across the Columbia on the Oregon side of the Columbia. For the next ten years these two forts protected the mouth of the Columbia.

In 1875 "Fort Cape Disappointment" was improved and became Fort Canby. Fort Canby was named after General Edward Canby, who was killed in the Modoc Indian War.

According to Jon Schmidt, an interpretive specialist at Cape Disappointment State Park, January 2008:

"... When the U.S. military constructed 22 cannons around the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse during the Civil War, the fort was unofficially known as "Fort Cape Disappointment". It wasn't until 1874 (86 years after Meares' disappointment) that the cape was given the label, "Fort Canby." The secretary of state officially renamed the fort to honor General Edward Canby, who was assassinated druing the Modoc Indian Wars. The moniker Fort Canby was to stay with the landscape for the next 129 years. Even when the fort was closed after World War II, the state park that took its place continued the military name. ..."

"... Then the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial arrived, and at the same time, a major "master plan." The Washington State Parks Commission determined to honor the older history of the cape, and once again renamed the headland Cape Disappointment. ..."

In 1896 Fort Columbia was built and in 1897 Fort Stevens was improved. The mouth of the Columbia River was now protected with three forts.

From Larry J. Weathers in The Sou'wester (1989, Pacific County Historical Society and Museum):

"... FORT CANBY: A deactivated military fort on Cape Disappointment overlooking Baker Bay / Columbia River. An Executive Order, dated February 26, 1852, reserved Cape Disappointment for military purposes. Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was placed in operation October 15, 1856, but construction of a post and fortifications were delayed until August 1863. The fort was not activated until April 15, 1864. For a number of years after its establishment the fort was generally known as "Fort Cape Disappointment". Finally, on February 13, 1875, the government designated the post "Fort Canby" in honor of Brevet Major General Edward Richard Sprigg Canby, who had been killed by the Modoc Indians, April 11, 1873. A post office was established June 30, 1890 and continued until January 31, 1923, when it was closed. Fort Canby was deactivated on March 28, 1947. ..."

Battery 247 ...
Battery 247, in operation between 1943 and 1947, was located on the top of McKenzie Head at Fort Canby. Battery 247 was one of three Batteries surrounding the mouth of the Columbia River. Battery 245 was located at Fort Stevens, Oregon, and Battery 246 was located at Fort Columbia, located at Chinook Point, Washington.

Cape Disappointment State Park ...
Fort Canby State Park ...
Cape Disappointment State Park -- formerly Fort Canby State Park -- is a 1,882-acre camping park, offering 27 miles of ocean beach, two lighthouses, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, and many hiking trails.

"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards", with the "Penny Postcard" being a popular way to send greetings to family and friends. Today the Penny Postcard has become a snapshot of history.

Penny Postcard, Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, ca.1908 Penny Postcard: Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, ca.1908. Penny Postcard, Postmarked 1908, "Fort Canby Light House, Ore." Note the cannons of Fort Canby. Card #12, O.W. Whitman, Astoria, Oregon, "hand-colored". In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, ca.1912 Penny Postcard: Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, ca.1912. Penny Postcard, Postmarked 1912, "Fort Canby Lighthouse, Mouth of Columbia River, near Seaside, Oregon." Note the cannons of Fort Canby. Published by Pacific Novelty Co., San Francisco. Card #5222. Card is postmarked September 5, 1912. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 18, 1805
A little cloudy this morning I Set out [from their camp at Station Camp] with 10 men and my man York to the Ocian by land. i. e. Serjt. Ordway & Pryor, Jos. & Ru. Fields, Go. Shannon, W. Brattin, J. Colter, P. Wiser, W. Labieche & P. Shabono one of our interpreters & York. [according to Moulton, Clark gave the other men's names in two inconsistent lists --- those named included Clark, Ordway, Charbonneau, Pryor, the Field brothers, Shannon, Colter, Weiser, Labiche, Bratton, and York.] I Set out at Day light and proceeded on a Sandy beech

N. 80 W. 1 Mile to a point of rocks about 40 feet high [Chinook Point, now the location of Fort Columbia], from the top of which the hill Side is open and assend with a Steep assent [Scarboro Hill] to the tops of the Mountains, a Deep nitch and two Small Streams above this point, then my course was

N. W. 7 Mile to the enterance of a creek [Chinook River] at a lodge or cabin of Chinnooks passing on a wide Sand bar the bay to my left [Baker Bay] and Several Small ponds Containing great numbers of water fowls to my right; with a narrow bottom of alder & Small balsam between the Ponds and the Mountn. ...     This Creek appears to be nothing more than the conveyance of Several Small dreans from the high hills and the ponds on each Side near its mouth. here we were Set across all in one Canoe by 2 Squars to each I gav a Small hook

S. 79 W. 5 Miles to the mouth of Chin nook river, [today's Wallacut River] passed a low bluff of a small hite at 2 miles below which is the remains of huts near which place is also the remains of a whale on the Sand, the countrey low open and Slashey, with elivated lands interspersed covered with pine & thick under groth This river [Wallacut River] is 40 yards wide at low tide- here we made a fire and dined on 4 brant and 48 Pliver which was killed by Labiech on the coast as we came on. Rubin Fields Killed a Buzzard of the large Kind near the meat of the whale we Saw: [California Condor] ...     after dineing we crossed the river in an old canoe which I found on the Sand near Som old houses & proceeded on-

S. 20 W. 4 Miles to a Small rock island in a deep nitch     passed a nitch at 2 miles in which there is a dreen from Some ponds back, the land low opposite this nitch a bluff of yellow Clay and Soft Stone from the river to the Comencement of this nitch     below the Country rises to high hills of about 80 or 90 feet above the water- at 3 miles passed a nitch- this rock Island is Small and at the South of a deep bend [near Illwaco, Washington] in which the nativs inform us the Ships anchor, and from whence they receive their goods in return for their peltries and Elk Skins &c. this appears to be a very good harber for large Ships. here I found Capt Lewis name on a tree. I also engraved my name & by land the day of the month and year, as also Several of the men.

S. 46 E. 2 Miles to the inner extremity of Cape Disapointment passing a nitch [location of Fort Canby] in which there is a Small rock island, a Small Stream falls into this nitch from a pond [today O'Neil Lake lies between Fort Canby and McKenzie Head] which is imediately on the Sea Coast passing through a low isthmus. this Cape is an ellivated <Situat> Circlier point [location Cape Disappointment Lighthouse] Covered with thick timber on the iner Side and open grassey exposur next to the Sea and rises with a Steep assent to the hight of about 150 or 160 feet above the leavel of the water <from the last mentioned nitch-> this cape [Cape Disappointment] as also the Shore both on the Bay & Sea coast is a dark brown rock [basalt]. I crossed the neck of Land low and of a mile wide to the main Ocian [today Waikiki Beach is located on the ocean side of this isthmus], at the foot of a high open hill projecting into the ocian, and about one mile in Sicumfrance. I assended this hill [McKenzie Head] which is covered with high corse grass. decended to the N. of it and camped. I picked up a flounder on the beech this evening.-

from Cape Disapointment to a high point of a Mountn. which we shall call [the Nicholas Biddle version has Clarke's Point of View inserted here. "Clarke's Point of View" is today's Tillamook Head, a name received when Clark visited and climbed the formation in Janaury 1806.] beares S. 20 W. about <40> [WC?: 25] miles, point adams is verry low and is Situated within the direction between those two high points of land, the water appears verry Shole from off the mouth of the river for a great distance, and I cannot assertain the direction of the deepst Chanel, the Indians point nearest the opposit Side. the waves appear to brake with tremendious force in every direction quite across a large Sand bar lies within the mouth nearest to point Adams [Point Adams] which is nearly covered at high tide. I suped on brant this evening with a little pounded fish. Some rain in the after part of the night. men appear much Satisfied with their trip beholding with estonishment the high waves dashing against the rocks & this emence ocian.

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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

  • Schmidt, J. (interpretive specialist, Cape Disappointment State Park), 2008, "Park Happenings: "Where's Fort Canby?, IN: "Coastweekend", Arts & Entertainment, online, January 15, 2008;
  • Weathers, L.J., 1989, IN: The Sou'wester, 1989, Pacific County Historical Society and Museum;

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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September 2008